Sunday, April 30, 2017

Coosawattee Bluffs

I recently participated in the annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage held by the Georgia Botanical Society. This was the 48th annual such event for the Society, and the event moves around the state. For the first time ever, the event was held just outside of Georgia, in Chattanooga. Many of the field trips were still held in Georgia, in the Ridge and Valley region.

Yellow trillium (Trillium luteum)
The event has lots of choices and for my Friday field trip, I chose one called “Coosawattee Bluffs” that was on private property near Carter’s Lake in Murray County. The property includes some bluffs that overlook the Coosawattee River, hence the name.

The property owners give the Botanical Society permission about once a year to conduct a field trip on this botanically rich property, so I knew that this field trip would be the only chance this year to visit. This is calcareous habitat with limestone present so the plants we expect to find would be those that enjoy those conditions.

Tradescantia subaspera
We walked into the property on an old road and began to see “cool stuff” right away: yellow trillium (Trillium luteum), purple spiderwort (Tradescantia subaspera, perhaps), and the annual yellow fumewort (Corydalis flavula). The yellow trillium was duly sniffed for fragrance because it is wonderful. On the way back, goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) was spotted in the area too (because really, you have to look on the way in and on the way out).  

Our next stop was at a rock outcrop that was decorated with shooting stars (Dodecatheon meadia) and gloriously purple spiderwort. People stood in line to take a picture of the shooting stars! As we tiptoed our way through the finely textured forkleaf toothwort (Cardamine dissecta), we found blooming Jacob’s ladder (Polemonium reptans) and trailing trillium (Trillium decumbens). Tearing our eyes (and cameras) away from the rich ground layer, we realized we were among blooming bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia) and yellow buckeye (Aesculus flava).

Cardamine dissecta
Polemonium reptans

Bladdernut (Staphylea trifolia)
Yellow buckeye (Aesculus flava)

From here we proceeded into a moist cove area that was carpeted with mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum), Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), Dutchman’s britches (Dicentra cucullaria), Southern nodding trillium (Trillium rugelii), deciduous ginger (Asarum reflexum), green dragon (Arisaema dracontium), great Indian plantain (Arnoglossum reniforme, perhaps), largeleaf waterleaf (Hydrophyllum macrophyllum) and more.

Dodecatheon meadia
Mertensia virginica

We completed our trek with a visit to the bluffs and watched some very large fish moving through it. As we looked down, we spied several clumps of blooming fernleaf phacelia (Phacelia bipinnatifida). The area around the bluffs is under invasive plant management by the owner and large amounts of privet had been recently removed. Native perennials were recovering nicely.


  1. How wonderful of the property owners to allow the Georgia Native Plant group to take field trips through their place with its diverse biota and, especially, to care enough about it to remove the invasive plants. Sounds like a great experience.